The Bishop of Waterford & Lismore in the Republic of Ireland has confirmed that a priest in his diocese is undergoing training as an exorcist after up to nine requests for deliverance were received in recent years from people who believe they have encountered evil spirits.
In an interview with WLRFM’s Déise Today programme, Bishop Phonsie Cullinan confirmed that a deliverance team is also being established.
Exorcism or deliverance teams usually include a priest trained to conduct an exorcism (canon 1172), a sympathetic psychologist/psychiatrist, and some experienced lay people.
The Bishop told the radio programme that he had felt the presence of Satan himself though he had never seen an exorcism.
“We are finding our feet in this area – it is something that there are more and more requests coming in for. I would hope that people will not get scared – let’s pray. Jesus is Lord of all and he is greater than any other force – so let’s trust in Jesus.”
He also warned people off Reiki, a form of healing popular among alternative medicine practitioners, saying it can be a channel for evil spirits.
“I know that people are looking for healing but let’s be very careful where you go for healing – if you are opening yourself up to a spirit and someone is channelling a spirit, you could be channelling the wrong spirit,” he said.
He recounted the story of a man who had trained as a Reiki Master and was working on somebody one day when he saw a vision of Satan. “He was scared out of his wits and dropped the Reiki and went back to Church.”
“Because you are channelling ‘energies’, you could well be opening yourself up to letting in a spirit which is not good, and this is dangerous stuff.”
On deliverance and exorcisms, he told the WLRFM programme, “You have got to pray and with the permission of the bishops recite the prayers of exorcism. It is a tricky area – it must never be done on one’s own and there always has to be prayer behind it,” the bishop who is linked to Opus Dei said.
“I remember one particular priest who was involved in the case of a young girl who came with her mother. There were four men to hold her down in the chair and the priest had warned the four guys beforehand to make sure they had gone to confession. One guy didn’t go to confession and the girl, with the voice that was not hers, a male voice that was coming out of her, actually called out the sins of the guy who had not been to confession - so that’s kind of scary stuff.”
Earlier this year, Irish exorcist Fr Pat Collins called on the bishops to train one or two priests in every diocese in Ireland as ministers of deliverance and of solemn exorcism.
The Vincentian priest highlighted how, due to the growing demand for exorcisms, many bishops in Italy, Spain, Poland and Britain have increased the number of trained exorcists in their dioceses.
Criticising the Irish Church, he commented to The Tablet, “I don’t think the hierarchy is taking this pastoral need seriously.”
In a letter to the bishops, Fr Collins described the matter as “urgent”.
“I have been asked by two bishops to handle difficult cases on their behalf. In those cases, I had permission to do whatever I thought was necessary up to the point of solemn exorcism,” he revealed.
Fr Collins expressed concern that some priests have been authorised to handle exorcism cases on an ad hoc basis.
The lack of trained, officially appointed exorcists in Ireland “breaks my heart” he said because “afflicted people” end up feeling “let down and abandoned”.
It also means that many priests tend to feel ill-equipped to help those who claim to be spiritually oppressed or possessed he warned.
“Nearly every day of the year I receive an email or phone call from desperate people who feel oppressed by evil spirits or who believe that their home or workplace is haunted in one way or another,” Fr Collins said.
Acknowledging that the need for solemn exorcism is rare, he highlighted that there is a much more widespread requirement for deliverance ministry, which is sometimes referred to as simple exorcism.